There wasn’t much that officials from Malaysian Airlines were able to say, other than the fact that flight MH 370, “had gone missing.” The overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared over the South China Sea with 239 people on board.

Missin Aircraft

The flight crew did not send a distress signal and there was no report of any difficulties on board. In fact, the first sign of trouble came when the pilot failed to check in with air traffic controllers at the scheduled time of 17:21 GMT (01.21 local time), 40 minutes after take-off.

According to the daily Tuoi Tre newspaper in Vietnam, the authorities there say they have detected a signal from the aircraft’s ‘ELC’ – the Emergency Locater Transmitter – about 120 miles south of Ca Mau, the country’s southern-most province. The paper has also published comments from Navy Admiral Ngo Van Phat, who said the plane has crashed into the ocean.

The airline has released a list of the nationalities on board. There were 153 Chinese including one infant as well as 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, 7 Australians and 4 Americans. There were also 2 infants on board. No Britons are reported to have been on the flight.

Malaysian Airlines Flight Reported Missing On Route To Beijing

In part of the world where neighbouring countries regularly compete for ownership of the South China Sea, there was a distinct if temporary change in attitude. Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and China are now participating in a massive search and rescue exercise. Ships, helicopters and planes have been sent to the area – we have now heard reports of an oil slick off the coast of Vietnam, although no wreckage on the surface has been found.

Dozens of anxious friends and relatives were taken from Beijing’s international airport to a hotel in the city centre – some received calls and texts from those on board before take-off and all were desperate for news. Among those waiting were members of tour group made participating in a cultural exchange in Malaysia. The group had been divided into two for the return journey – the first half arrived in Beijing on an earlier flight. Staff members from Malaysian Airlines have provided little in the way of information however with many complaining bitterly about the situation.

This tragic event defies attempts at explanation. According to the company’s chief executive Ahmad Uauhari Yahya, the aircraft was carrying an additional 2 hours of fuel and the company itself has an excellent reputation – it hasn’t suffered a fatal accident in more than two decades. The Boeing 777 also has a top notch safety record. Officials at the American airline manufacturer point out that this model has not has not recorded a single instance of engine failure at take-off – the point when the fuselage is under the most stress. The ‘cruise’ section of long-distance flights pose considerably fewer hazards.

Concerned family members and friends can contact Malaysian Airlines on +603 7884 1234 for further information.

Follow @c4sparks on Twitter.